In palaces of future memories

In several episodes of the new BBC series “Sherlock”, there are some wonderful visualizations of Sherlock Holmes going into the memory palace within his fabulous brain to retrieve huge volumes of detailed information he has systematically stored away through the years, each piece of data mapped to a specific location within a virtual building he has constructed in his mind.

The technique of the memory palace, or the “method of loci”, is often attributed to Simonides of Ceos, an ancient Greek lyric poet. This technique is still used today by memory champions to remember fantastically large amounts of information.

Once we have the power-up of being in an immersive virtual reality, perhaps the memory palace could become more accessible to us lesser mortals. We could use our own physical body, our movements and location, to navigate through vast amounts of information, entire libraries becoming available literally at our fingertips.

This would be much more intuitive than current methods of search, where we must type in sets of keywords and then scroll down lists of “hits” in hopes of finding what we want.

Once we have the full use of our body memory, we will be able to draw more completely upon our own brain / body connection to journey through the vast reaches of cyberspace. People will meet each other in data rich places, to which they will navigate without a second thought, perhaps arriving at their destination through a slight turn, a step to the left, a turn of the head, a gesture with the hand.

Future generations will build new kinds of communities, accessible not through keystrokes or screen taps, but by a kind of natural and body-centric form of travel that cyber-citizens of today can only vaguely imagine.

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